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Hey startup enthusiasts and fellow entrepreneurs! Startup Radius interviewed The Pond – a mobile app that helps entrepreneurs find co-founders, partners or startups to join. Brilliant idea of a “startup dating”, with the only distinction – you don’t have to just swipe left or right, but set targeted criteria instead to find a perfect match.

See how they came up with this idea, how they compete with such giants as Linkedin and AngelList, why it’s important to focus on a highly-targeted audience only, why they prefer community marketing and much more. Enjoy and read below!

Pond App - find co-founders and startups

Can you tell us about what you are working on? What is The Pond?

The Pond is a matching app for entrepreneurs to find co-founders and startups to join. Our app curates high-quality matches through targeted criteria and detailed profiles.

As we all know, finding a cofounder is very difficult. After researching current platforms and speaking with hundreds of entrepreneurs, we learned that existing platforms require entrepreneurs to expend a lot of time and energy sifting through large pools of profiles with little understanding of the relevance, skillset, or interest of those connections.

To solve this problem, users create in-depth profiles and specify exactly what they’re looking for in a cofounder or startup. They then only see profiles where they both fit one another’s specific criteria and conversations only happen once they both agree they’re interested.

Why are you building this? Was there a particular source of inspiration or money-making idea?

Everyone on the team has had experience working on very early stage ventures, and a common theme was that our cofounder options were limited by our own connections. We wanted to widen the available talent pool for founders in a way that feels intuitive and leads to people starting more successful companies.

Pond App - find co-founders

Time for bragging! How big you are – traffic, users, anything else?

We launched two weeks ago and are really happy with our traction! We currently have over 200 users connecting on our platform, with more joining every day!

Who are your main competitors, and how good/bad they are?

Our primary competitors where entrepreneurs go to find co-founders or startups to join are CoFoundersLab, AngelList, and LinkedIn. Some entrepreneurs also use more general networking platforms such as Shapr and Reddit.

As we mentioned before, all of these platforms require a lot of time and effort.  Entrepreneurs have to really know what they’re searching for, and hope that people respond with a mutual interest.

Our goal is to streamline the experience of finding a cofounder or startup to join by requiring detailed profiles and clear objectives from our users. We understand that our users want to find their co-founders or startups yesterday, and so we’re focused on putting the right people in front of each other.

Who uses The Pond? What is your perfect buyer persona?

The app is designed for entrepreneurs who have a venture and are looking for a cofounder or team member, and for entrepreneurs who want to join a venture! 

Example buyer personas include:

  • A tech founder with a SaaS product looking for a marketing/sales cofounder
  • A biz dev founder with a proof of concept looking for a CTO
  • A two-person team looking to make their first outside hire
  • Industry veteran looking to move from a corporate job to a startup in the same field
  • A serial entrepreneur looking to advise an early stage team
Pond App - create profile to find startups and co-founders

Were there any early ‘growth hacks’ or tactics that have contributed to your current success?

From the beginning, we made a point to focus on only two things: 1) customer discovery, and 2) our product. Our priority was building a product that solved the needs of our target audience, so we made sure to always be talking to potential customers to understand what their biggest problems were.

Following the advice of Paul Graham (Co-founder of Y Combinator), who said “Do things that don’t scale”, we reached out individually to hundreds of entrepreneurs each day to try to schedule calls or meetings to learn about their personal struggles finding co-founders or team members and to get their interest in being a beta tester for us as we built out our product.

What were some of the biggest challenges while building The Pond early on and how did you solve them?

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries recommends launching quickly with an MVP (minimum viable product) that meets users needs. Our biggest challenge was being okay with launching an app that didn’t include all of the feature ideas we had on our list but included the core functionality that our users need. We constantly had to weigh the benefit of a given feature against the time it would take to incorporate that into our initial product.

A great tool that helped us out as we got closer to launch was a method recommended in the YC Startup School program: list out all of the prospective features and then assign each a “Priority” score (High, Medium, Low) and an “Effort” score (Difficult, Medium, Easy). By being explicit about the costs and benefits of a given feature, we were able to focus our efforts on the key features and reduce the time it took to launch the app.

Pond App - find relevant startups and partners

If you could give a marketing advice to other companies, what could it be based on your experience?

Develop your user personas, focusing on a niche target audience, and make sure you’re solving a real problem for them. Identify where your target audience is active (online or in-person), and market specifically to them.

Which marketing channels you prefer and why?

Since we just launched, we’ve been focusing on marketing to communities both online and in-person where entrepreneurs spend a lot of their time. We would love to collaborate or partner with spaces and programs who share our goal of helping entrepreneurs build successful startups, such as entrepreneurship centers, accelerators, and coworking spaces. Because community is so important to entrepreneurs, we’ve also created our own Slack community for our users to not only connect with one another on a group level to discuss startup-related topics but to also be able to directly connect with us, the founders at The Pond for feedback and suggestions.

Is The Pond monetized? Why did you choose the current monetization method? 

The Pond is not currently monetized. We plan to offer a premium subscription option that will enhance the experience for our users.

What are the top products/services you use in your company and why do you like them?

  • Slack: Great for internal team messaging and to communicate with our community.
  • DigitalOcean: Very affordable cloud infrastructure with straightforward options for everything from network architecture to managed databases. They also have a fantastic program for early-stage startups.
  • Trello: To help us stay on top of our to-do lists.
  • AWS: Good for image and video storage and delivery. We would probably be using it for infrastructure if we didn’t use DigitalOcean.
  • Github + CircleCI: Easy interface for automating testing and builds.
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